Matthew Biography

Matthew is best known for the gospel bearing his name.  In his fine account Matthew emphasized the many Old Testament messianic predictions which were fulfilled in Christ’s life.  Also, reflecting an accountant’s background, he carefully arranged the content and symmetric numbers of events, and included several parables, quotations, and events that had some bearing on financial matters.

Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple while he was a tax collector

Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple while he was a tax collector

However, it may astound some that Matthew was chosen to follow Christ at all.  Matthew was considered a licensed thief.  He had won at auction a position as Roman tax collector.  Whatever monies above tax quotas these Jewish turncoats could extort from their fellow Jews padded their own pockets.   For this reason publicans or tax collectors were classed along with whores, brothel keepers, parasites and informers.   They were hated by their countrymen, ostracized from synagogues, and their word could not be used in a court of law.

Amazingly one day Jesus stopped at Matthew’s tax booth and invited him to be a disciple.  We don’t know what led up to this event.  Perhaps Matthew had shown a poorly disguised fascination with this increasingly notorious man who had begun healing and preaching to growing crowds.  In any case, Matthew immediately left his booth to follow Christ, and Jesus thereby invited upon Himself the harshest sort of criticism for selecting such a sinner to follow Him.

Jesus and his disciples

Jesus and his disciples

Filled with joy, Matthew planned a great banquet in his home to celebrate his commitment to a new master.  He invited many tax collectors and other outsiders who were blatant violators of the Law of Moses.  Jesus willingly joined in the festal occasion and these outcasts were able to observe first-hand the very approachable, gentle, and holy Son of Man.  Perhaps without intentional purpose, Matthew was leading to Jesus those who needed Him most…those who, because of personal guilt or spiritual indifference, were quite unlikely to seek Him on their own.

Jesus said He had not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.  And perhaps the most commendable thing to be said of Matthew is that he excitedly brought many of these morally ailing outcasts to Christ.  Those who imagined Christ as one who would despise them found in Him one who cared infinitely.  Without knowing it, Matthew had become a successful missionary.

What can we learn from Matthew?

Matthew’s story is for anyone who feels unworthy of the Christian faith.  Jesus will not condemn us for our past.  But he calls us away from that through His forgiveness.  He calls us to a new life of holy friendship with Him—a friendship we will want to pass on to others.

Bible Verses about Matthew

Gospel of Matthew;  Mat. 9:9-10; Luke 5:27-29;

What questions does this help to answer?

  • Who was Matthew in the Bible?
  • Did the disciple Matthew write the gospel Matthew?
  • Does God forgive our past?
  • Who were Jesus’ disciples?

Author Info

Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes.  Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education.  Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally.  He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.

Steve Fortosis